The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16-17)

Part 4 of the Leviticus overview featuring chapters 16 and 17.

Leviticus Chapter 16:
After the death of Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, God said to Moses and Aaron that no one should just come into his presence whenever they want or else they will die. His presence hovers above the Tabernacle as a cloud and they must follow instructions to be safe. God then gives them instructions on how to deal with atonement for the nation of Israel.

These are the instructions for the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur):
Aaron (the high priest) is to bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering to the Tabernacle. The bull is atonement for himself and his family (the priest). He will bathe and put on the his turban, with his linen tunic, sash, and undergarments. Then from the community, he is to receive two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering. He will bring the two goats to the entrance of the Tabernacle, and cast lots for the goats to determine which one goes to God and which one is the scapegoat. The one that goes to God will be the sin offering for the community, and the scapegoat is sent to the wilderness.

Then Aaron must sacrifice the young bull for his sins. Afterward, he will bring a censer of burning coals from the gold altar and some incense into the Most Holy Place. There he will pour incense on the fire, and the cloud from the incense will cover the Ark, this will keep him from dying in God’s presence. Then he will sprinkle the blood of the bull before the Ark seven times. Next, he will sacrifice the goat for the community’s sins and bring its blood inside the Most Holy Place and sprinkle it seven times before the Ark just like the bull’s blood. Then he will go back into the sanctuary, and sprinkle the blood of the bull and goat with his finger seven times over the gold incense altar, making it holy. No one else can be in the Tabernacle from the time Aaron enters until the time he leaves. This will purify the Most Holy Place, THe Tabernacle, and the altar. This process atones for the sins of the Israelites.

Then Aaron is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the sins of the people of Israel and then give it to an appointed man who will take it to an isolated place, and let it go in the desert. Then Aaron will go back to the Tabernacle and take off the holy linens and take a bath, leaving the holy linens in the Tabernacle. After bathing, he will put on his priestly garments, then sacrifice the two rams each as burnt offerings for both his family and the community. In addition, he is to burn the fat of the sin offerings on the bronze altar, and then everyone will be atoned for. The man who escorted the live goat in the wilderness, must wash his clothes and bathe before returning to the camp. The remains (internal organs, hides, and dung) of the bull and goat sin offerings are to be dumped outside the camp and burned. The person who takes them out there must wash his clothes and bathe before returning to camp.

This is to be done every year on the 10th day of the seventh month. They must all (natives and foreigners) rest as they would do on a sabbath day and fast on that day as well. This day is necessary for the atonement of the nation and this ceremony will be performed only by the high priest in each future generation.

Leviticus Chapter 17:
God tells Moses that the people of Israel are no longer allowed to sacrifice just anywhere like they did before, otherwise, they will guilty of bloodshed and be cut off from the community. They must bring their offerings to the entrance of the Tabernacle so that its blood can be splattered against the altar. They must no longer sacrifice to goat idols as they did before. Both Israelites and foreigners living among them, must follow this rule and bring their burnt offerings to the Tabernacle.

Anyone (Israelite or foreigner) who drinks blood will be cut off from the community. The blood is the life of the creature and it belongs on the altar for atonement, and it is not to be eaten. Furthermore, when hunting animals everyone must pour out the animal’s blood and bury it before consuming the animal. If anyone eats an animal that died naturally or is mauled to death, they are ritually unclean and must wash their clothes and bathe, otherwise, they will be punished for sin.

Comment: The word translated as goat idols or goat demons is Seirim (שע‬י‬רי‬‬ם) which means he-goat and the original meaning is debated. Some say it was a practice they adopted from their time in Egypt and influence various idol-worshipping cultures around them.

<–Part 3
Part 5–>